California groups urge Governor to reject REDD carbon offsets

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Yesterday 33 California-based organisations wrote to California’s Governor Jerry Brown requesting that international forest carbon offsets be excluded from California’s cap and trade system.

The groups “strongly support California’s climate change goals” and note that the “protection of tropical forests can play an important role in combating climate change”. But the groups are “strongly concerned” that the proposed REDD offsets, “would not provide environmental and health benefits to Californians, protect forests, or avert carbon emissions”.

Currently, California’s cap and trade system does not include international forest offsets. But a REDD Offsets Working Group, established in February 2011, will soon produce a report outlining options for REDD offsets in California’s cap and trade system. Many of the members of the Working Group are pro-carbon trading, including representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and Environmental Defense Fund. The Working Group is funded by the Climate Land Use Alliance (which in 2011 provided US$1.5 million in support of the Governors’ Forest and Climate Task Force).

In the letter, the groups point out that,

All carbon offset programs suffer from environmental integrity problems, such as non-additionality (where the offset project funded would have happened anyway), but sub-national REDD+ credits likely are the most problematic of all offset types. They face inherent risks of leakage (whereby deforestation merely shifts from one part of the country to another) and impermanence (where the forest is destroyed at a later point). Also, measurement of carbon stocks in tropical forests is so inexact that it renders them unsuitable for compliance offsets, which require precise carbon accounting.

Friends of the Earth US issued the following press release about the letter:

California groups urge Governor to reject international forest carbon credits

11 July 2012

San Francisco, Calif. – A group of over 30 California-based organizations yesterday sent a letter to Governor Brown urging him to reject the use of international forest carbon offsets credits in the state’s cap and trade system.

Such carbon offsets are known as either REDD, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, or REDD+ offsets. REDD offset projects involve efforts to protect a tract of tropical forest from being cut down or damaged, while REDD+ refers to additional efforts to change industrial logging practices.

The letter, which was endorsed by national environmental organizations, local environmental justice groups, and indigenous rights organizations, describes several flaws with REDD offset credits. It particularly stressed that REDD offsets have so little environmental integrity that no governmental carbon trading system in the world currently accepts them.

“All carbon offset projects run the risk of being shams, by not effectively reducing carbon emissions, but REDD offsets are the riskiest of all,” said Michelle Chan, director of economic policy programs at Friends of the Earth. If California accepts REDD credits, she said, “Rather than lead the world in environmental integrity, California may instead lead a race to the bottom.”

“California is on the brink of pursuing a policy that is not only at odds with its own emissions reductions objectives but could also undermine efforts to preserve the world’s last remaining rainforests,” added Roman Czebiniak, Greenpeace’s senior policy advisor on climate change and forests. He pointed out that the United States and other parties to the international climate change negotiations have agreed to provide financing to help developing countries protect their tropical forests nationwide with safeguards for indigenous peoples and biodiversity. Proposals in California could derail such efforts by incentivizing small scale projects and other sub-national activities in the absence of similar safeguards for human rights and local communities.

“The abuses of indigenous human rights by cap and trade, particularly under REDD programs have been well documented,” said Alberto Saldamando, Indigenous Environmental Network focal point for California REDD. “They have led to forced or coerced displacement of Indigenous Peoples from their ancestral lands, assassinations, imprisonment, and alienation from Indigenous lifeways and spiritual lives. California should not repeat its mistakes of the past with regard to Indigenous and Native Peoples, including their genocide or ethnocide, just to let their polluters continue to pollute.”

Environmental justice advocates also pointed out that communities living next to dirty energy factories, like the Richmond Chevron oil refinery, hope that AB 32 will reduce pollution in their neighborhoods. But Mari Rose Taruc, state organizing director of Asian Pacific Environmental Network, said, “If California allows REDD programs into AB 32, then it would encourage these dirty industries to avoid their responsibility to reduce their emissions locally, and then empower them to destroy forest communities where our families also live, in tropical places like Mexico, with carbon offsets. That is a bad deal for environmental justice communities in California and abroad.”

Although California’s cap and trade regulations do not currently accept carbon offset credits from international forests projects, they provide a placeholder for them. Later this month, a pseudo-governmental group, the REDD Offsets Working Group, is expected to release a paper outlining options for allowing REDD offsets to be used in California’s cap and trade program.

To download the letter to Governor Brown, click here.

Contacts:

Michelle Chan, Director of Economic Policy Programs, Friends of the Earth: (510) 900-3141
Roman Czebiniak, Senior Policy Advisor on Climate Change and Forests, Greenpeace: (415) 255-9221 ext 307
Alberto Saldamando, Attorney and Advocate for International Indigenous Rights: (415) 656-9198
Mari Rose Taruc, State Organizing Director, Asian Pacific Environmental Network: (510) 834-8920 ext 311


PHOTO Credit: Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, protesting at Avoided Deforestation Partners’ event at Rio +20, June 2012.

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